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Fossil fuel divestment campaign gathers pace in Australia and worldwide

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The fossil fuel divestment movement, which has attracted a vitriolic reaction from past and present Coalition government ministers, is gathering pace in Australia and worldwide with 500 institutions representing $3.4 trillion in assets now involved.

Lead campaign groups 350.org and Divest-Invest announced the latest milestone at the Paris climate summit today. It compares to last September when 181 institutions representing $50 billion in assets had committed to divest. They said the figures include partial divestments and total funds under management as total divestment figures are difficult to track due to varying degrees of disclosure.

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Stephen Heintz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which is divesting from fossil fuels said today: “By divesting, all of us, who are doing so, are sending a very strong market signal. And coal companies are failing and coal plants are being shut down and coal mines are being stopped.”

“We need as quickly as possible to the clean energy future and bring the entire fossil fuel industry to end in the next 20 to 30 years.

In Australia, the Australian National University in Canberra and Sydney University have been joined by the City of Melbourne and 14 local councils, representing a total of $A5.5 billion assets under management.

When ANU announced its intention to divest from fossil fuels in October last year, the reaction from the Coalition government was vitriolic with Prime Minister Tony Abbott saying it was a “stupid decision” while then Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, now responsible for Industry, Innovation and Science, said it was “bizarre”.

However In the last year the fossil fuel divestment movement has gone beyond its beginnings on university campuses to the board rooms of major companies and pension funds.

Europe’s largest insurance company, Allianz, has recently announced it will divest €630 million of their own capital investment portfolio from coal, and are reinvesting over €4 billion into wind energy over the next 6 months.

Dutch pension fund PFZW , with €161 billion of assets under management, announced it will divest from coal companies and reduce its investments in other fossil fuel companies.

In California, the 7th largest economy in the world, the state senate has passed a resolution to divest coal investments from two of the world’s largest pension funds, CalPERS and CAlSTRS, which together represent nearly $500 billion in assets.

Californian senator Kevin de Leon said today aside from being a major cause of climate change, smog and acid rain,  coal was risky investment with the market value of the U.S. four leading coal companies falling 95 per cent in the last five years.

Australia’s top 10 pure play coal miners saw a 60 per cent fall in share market value to 5.9 billion in the two and a half years to September last year.

“Investors are reading the writing on the wall and dramatically shifting capital away from fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable energy,” the groups said.

  

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